I’m officially six minutes into my spring break — woo hoo! Since we’re working virtually this week, I’m at home. Luckily, I finished my reports and whatnot before going online to piddle around with a poetry unit for one of my classes. Then I got an idea and googled it, which led me to another idea, which led me to thinking about someone I lost touch with, so then I googled that person, which led me to wonder what people see when they google me. Surprisingly, there are a lot of Bettina Bennetts. We all seem to be doing cool things.
Then I googled Bettina Tison Bennett to see what comes up since that’s the name I use when I’m serious about my writing. I haven’t been serious about my writing in a very long time, probably because I’m quite serious about teaching writing to others. That search led to my first blog (surprisingly not my ‘real’ published work). The one I wrote while being a very lucky soul on a Fulbright Hayes trip to Ghana. I cringe at the sometimes insensitive tone my voice had at the beginning of the trip, but it is who I was at that moment in time. Some of the writing is sloppy or cliche because I was on a busy journey with sporadic Internet (lol including dial-up Internet cafes), so time to polish wasn’t really an option (I am still guilty of sloppy or cliche and I do have time to edit but don’t —lazy is also very much part of who I am past, present and future).
There is depth in there too, and it brought back so much I hadn’t thought about in a long, long while. Ghana changed me. Wait, that’s not true. It revived the girl I once was — the dreamer who wanted to see the world and share its stories. What it did change was my lens. It helped me see things from perspectives I did not know existed. Well, maybe I did, but I could never know what they truly were had I not opened myself to them (nor them to me).
When I left Ghana 11 years ago, I knew I would find a way to teach overseas. It was no longer “oh wouldn’t that be nice.” It was as real in my being as the air I breathe (like writing once was, or maybe still is in a way). Teaching the young from all walks of life has taught me so much about the magic of living. Even now when my body hurts and my younger years are certainly a thing of the past, the work (and all those kids) keeps me connected to what is good about us. If any of my former Arizona students are reading, that also includes you. Some of my favorite teaching was done there, but I needed to also see more of the world (and learn from its young).
I truly had no idea how I would embark on this overseas life, or the path it would take me on. I thought I’d probably end up teaching in Ghana, but to be honest, I also really like to wine and dine with the good stuff, so a Ghanaian salary was never going to be the right option for me. I also had my own children to look after. Four years later my youngest graduated high school, and I was off to the United Arab Emirates for a whole new batch of different ways to look at the world, which of course led to more journeys than I can remember to count. Ghana was my first trip to Africa, but thanks to my overseas life I have now also been to Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar (which is technically part of Tanzania, but it is also an island with its own story). I interviewed for this job while in Kenya and accepted the offer while in Egypt. Africa has been so incredibly kind to me and blessed me with more gifts than I could ever give back to her — other than my soul-felt appreciation, respect and admiration.
I’m rambling because, you know, I’m caught in my own rabbit hole. When I was young I used to talk to older me. I’d sit on a hill or under a tree or by a brook and just prattle away to ‘old’ me. LOL I’d ask about my pulitzer and my beach house and the school I created for misunderstood children (because I was that child and would literally draw up plans for this ‘school for the cool’). Oddly enough I never really thought I’d be a teacher. I think my plan would have me rich and famous as a National Geographic reporter (in my world they were celebrities), visiting the school as the adored guest speaker/founder. Then a butterfly would taunt me, and I’d be off running into the woods.
And, that my friends, was more than you probably care to learn about where my mind escapes to. I have no new travel tales to share, but that’s okay there will be more. Who knows where the journey will take me next. I’m just so grateful to the little girl in me who keeps the light going and all the amazing folk I meet along the way who also keep the light burning. Tis a good life!
And, if you’re in the mood to stroll through my clunky old blog, Ghana is so worth the visit — even virtually. If you do get to go, please do get to know its people, whether it’s the workers in your hotel or the vendors you buy things from. While there is absolutely no Ghanaian blood in me, we do share the gift of gab and love of story.